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English-language version of Luistxo Fernandez's blog

Catalonia as a window of opportunity

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/11/06 17:38

I look at Catalonia with envy and hope. The movement for independence is becoming stronger, and although a majority for clear and plain independence might not be the outcome of the next regional elections there, the issue will reach the Parliament at Barcelona, and hopefully create contradictions in Spain. We Basques... we have ETA. So bad. 50 criminal years of bloody stupidity and a worthless run to nowhere. And then a bunch of nationalist political parties with no clue about how to head towards independence despite all-aloud talk about self-government and blah blah blah.

I think that the only hope for Basque independence is, on one hand, partition, forgetting about a 7-province Independent Homeland comprising all the Basque Country (Euskal Herria), north and south of the Spain/France border. And, on the other hand, Catalonia. I strongly believe that independence will not come from some process that follows the rules of law as it is now on the Spanish Constitution. Cause there is no place for that. Independence will come from an accident of history, the break-up of Spain. And that can only happen in Catalonia. If they go away, that's our chance. It will be the only window of opportunity at sight.

I wrote about these thoughts recently in Basque, and then got it translated into Spanish and Catalan. Me, a nobody, got no replies, really. I failed creating a controversy, and that's what I wanted: break the taboo of partition (a forbidden word in Basque nationalistic political speech), and put our eyes on Catalonia, the real hot issue around.

So, after my failure as a polemist, I take solace looking at the new instance of the Umap product (a realtime agregator for Twitter) that we launched (yeah, marketing propaganda, btw :-)), Umap in Catalan. They are alive and kicking, almost every news item they comment is like adeu Espanya, bye bye Spain. So, go, get away, Catalan folks, leave us behind. Just, at the last moment, as you close the gate of scape from Spain, turn your head take a last look back. In the improbable case that Basques are approaching, leave the window open. Just in case. Gràcies.

All Your Basque Are Belong To Umap

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/10/28 10:22
It's a Twitter aggregator with language-detection. The Basque experience could, should be exported.

 Umap is a Twitter-based product developed by CodeSyntax, our little company. It collects and processes all the tweets (or at least most of them) in a certain language.

We have just tried it with Basque language, but we hope that some other languages will be coming soon. You can see the Umap's Basque version at The app works with some automatic processes:

  • A method to detect Basque speaker Twitter users.
  • Detect all the tweets of those users and distinguish the Basque tweets of those users.
  • Extract trends. and other data, for instance langauge-usage stats of the users being tracked.

Some more info in the company's English-language blog.

We hope to launch other Umap versions. Some languages and countries do have commercial possibilities, obviously. However, being Basques, we know minority languages first-hand, and commercial approaches are probably not practical for others in our situation.

We think that above 500 hundred original Twitter users, and not all of them using the language all the time, but with occasional users among them, it will work fine for a given community. The release of something like Umap could atract more users, and usage of Twitter is also expected to grow.

It would be nice to contact with some citizen association / media organisation / language promotion board / administration body that may want to make use of this tool, rigth now, in the most affordable way, with prospects for continuity and with the safe assumption that it will have a great impact in language use in the most cutting-edge of the communication realms, that of the Realtime Internet. Follow or DM Luistxo on Twitter if you're interested.

Plus: Umap looks great on an Apple © iPad | Umap Ipad batean © cc-by-sa: codesyntax

Awajun women can make poignant political speeches too

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/10/10 20:02

I was recently very much impressed by the video and story posted on this Latin-American English language blog, El Oso, which in turn, related the efforts of Peruvian journalist Jacqueline Fowks to document the fight of the Peruvian Awajun indians, in the conflict of the Bagua region.

Despite being problems located far away from my surroundings, there were some points so poignantly familiar.

  • The arrogance of monolingual journalists towards native speakers of other languages that, being bilingual, try to speak in the other person's language
  • The astonishing familiar speech of that Awajun woman... It's so basque, in a sense, being full of direct Spanish loans... It is as if a language with no connection with Spanish, when touched by its influence, should develop some traces. This might sound like a stupid claim, but really, one feels similar about my own language, as spoken by old people, for instance.

The shocking part in the video is from second 21 to 1.25.

Particularly, without doubting of the transcription (here: 'en') that Fowks got from an Awajun speaker, Fermin Tiwi; I would say that the woman, before mentioning the helicoptero, says something about cinco-metros and diez-metros, that is, plain Spanish for 5 & 10 meters. There's no mention of that in the transcript. It sounds familiar to me because it's also typical of some Basque dialectal forms to directly mix spanish numerals in some measurement contexts, for instance dates and time. So, I guess that the woman says something about the range of their spears, no more than 5 or 10 meters, or perhaps she refers to the short range from where soldiers shot at the indians... I don't know.

I was also interested in the subtitling of the video, that was finally achieved thanks to that journalist's effort. Captioning transcripts, subtitling; i think they are good ways to get multilingual understanding: hearing people's own speech has a value in itself, very much clear in the case of this Awajun woman, but it's good to understand the discourse. You see the first video, and you may feel the woman's gone crazy because of her tragedy... but you read the subtitles and you realize that she has a poignant political discourse, no bullshit at all.

El Oso also mentions that some of the documentation relating to the Bagua conflict opposing indians and the government (+ all those explotation companies) has surfaced in the website Wikileaks. Great. In that sense, I think that Wikileaks should take a more open view towards captioning and subtitling. Some months ago they released a shocking video document they named Collateral Murder, the video had burnt english captions; and they also released transcriptions in other languages, but none of them was in a temporal format, that is, SRT or SUB or some format that ties text to video-time, so each caption appears at the desired moment. I wrote to Wikileaks, asking for SRT files and volunteering for a Basque version, but this was the disappointing reply that I got.

We looked into this. srt is not yet reliable enough, but we will release the raw final cut project soon


One day, they'll learn, I guess.

Finally, I've written about this Awajun women also in Basque. I thought there would be some reaction, but, nope. In the Basque Country, there's great interest in Latin-American affairs, I would say. But it's always because of us understanding Spanish. In progressive circles, apparently pro-indigenous discourses like those of Evo Morales in Bolivia or Rafael Correa in Ecuador are greeted and hailed, but I am always left in doubt: I suspect it's just the same criollo attitude of always, a colonialised state of mind, which cannot think of any cultural, social or political role for speakers of indigenous languages.

Basque tiles from OpenStreetMap

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/09/30 13:53

A project from my co-workers at Tagzania Services: EuskalMapa, the Basque Map. That is, a free OpenStreetMap based version of OSM showing Basque names for places. There's a similar project with Scottish Gaelic and it's called

Tiles are generated with Basque names on them not fot the whole globe, but according to this logic:

  • The whole planet: zooms 1-9
  • Spain: zooms 10-13 
  • The Basque Country: zooms 13-17


Some examples: | Euskalmapa © cc-by-sa: sustatu | Ezpeleta © cc-by-sa: sustatu | Gasteizko alde zaharra © cc-by-sa: sustatu

Google Realtime in several minority languages

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/09/27 09:04

Google was presenting search results from realtime information flows (Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed...) since some months ago, but it was just some days ago that we realised that it did restrict results to Basque, if you searched those updates from a Basque interface. Then, it came the announcement of Google Realtime, an standalone version of those searches. Basque is included, in a total of 40 languages, but curiously enough, Google doesn't mention which languages are those.
So, with some URL hacking, I could determine that several European minority languages are included, while, to the contrary, some state-languages are not...


Try with a search like Twitter in Welsh, and twist the URL with the language codes for other languages.


You will see that it works with nl, ne or no (Dutch, Nepali and Norwegian) as well as the minority languages listed above, but not with se, dk or ee (Swedish, Danish or Estonian). Basque screenshot here below when searched for Android.

However, none of those languages has the extra options to sea results in threaded conversations or restrict results to a given geographical area, which are only available in English, Japanese, Spanish and Russian so far.


Languishing blog

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/09/11 12:38

Once upon a time the English Cemetery was a lively multilingual blog in three languages... Lately, it's just two languages, and it languishes in Basque the same way as in English.

There are some reasons for this. Well, in my work at CodeSyntax, I was more focused on l10n and i18n issues... Then we launched Tagzania which was an international effort, and I also collaborated with Nestoria, a London-based project. From those viewpoints I had more things to say, and I felt more compelled to comment things, to do marketing as well (why not?). Nowadays, my working hours in CodeSyntax are not so devoted to l10n, the Tagzania team is doing well although I'm not in that taskforce and I see Nestoria from a distance (they keep internationalising, and I am glad to know that they have launched their real estate search machinery in France!).

Then, there's also the Twitter / Facebook thing that has affected many bloggers' posting habits, and also some twists of life that have put me on a rather silent mode.

I could still post about big international news about the Basques, but my political views are rather skeptical lately, and well, I rather comment miscelaneous bits than the other serious issues.

We'll see, there are some projects around at the company right now, and maybe one of those will involve l10n/i18n aspects, or hopefully have international projection. If that's the case, posts may be spotted here again. I hope to see the blossoming happen before spring, really.

Oñati, an evil place that's worth a visit, according to Lonely Planet

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/09/03 17:11

This year, scores of international tourists have come to Oñati, a Basque town, attracted by the following description in a Lonely Planet guide

If your Basque experiences have so tar been limited to a crawl around some San Sebastian bars and Bilbao galleries then you might be wondering what this ETA fuss is all about. If so, the small town of Oñati is a good place to experience the darker side of Euskadi.

On first impressions the town, set in a bowl in the surrounding mountains, is a charmer, but walk down its streets during a grey and drizzly lunchtime when all is shut up tight and you'll quickly see another side to the place. Almost every square centimetre of wall space is covered in Nationalist graffiti calling for independence. With every pass ing step you'll be confronted with a poster graphically revealing Spanish state torture or calling for Basque prisoners to be returned to the Basque Country. Against such a backdrop it's hard to imagine how real, lasting peace can be achieved.

And you know what? The Town Council has protested and asked Lonely Planet to remove that from next year's guide. WTF! According to the very same news item informing about it, there are people that are actually coming to Oñati to experience evil first hand!

Captioning for Collateral Murder

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/04/06 13:36

Like many others, I'm impressed by the Collateral Murder video leaked to the web. I have suggested to the leakers that they should distribute the transcripts in .srt format. The transcripts here... they're not really that optimal for the international diffusion of Collateral Murder.

With srt files, mixing the movie file with subtitles in more languages would be easier.

Moreover, it would be necessary to include in the .srt the explanatory captions of the video, which are all in English. Those explanations are part of the film, they should be translated and put in circulation around the web. I volunteer for Basque and Spanish versions.

Subtitles and minority language dialogues among Oscar nominees

Luistxo Fernandez 2010/03/02 08:35

I've seen several of the movies nominated for this year's Oscars. I'm not particularly impressed with the new extended 10-movie lot for Best Movie. The 4 movies nominated in the Foreign Language category are quite more interesting.

One particular thing that I've noticed in those films. Minority languages. There's dialogue in Yiddish in A serious man, Corsican in Un prophete, and Quechua in The Milk of Sorrow (La Teta Asustada). That's quite remarkable.

As for Quechua in La teta asustada, it was touching when the actress Magaly Solier received a main prize in the Berlinale last year and she began talking and singing in her language (click the video here to watch it). The Quechua dialogue in that movie has been translated already into Basque for the Basque subtitle archive. That's a site that I created: I mentioned here time ago, and now it has its own domain:

There's another of the Oscar nominees already with Basque subtitles: Up, by Pixar. It's so bad Disney España decides to offer nothing at all in Basque. Other distributors produce movies or DVDs with dubbed Basque or subtitles in our language, but as for Disney, nothing at all comes from them. Looks like official negationist policy. So, it's OK that people take their place regardless of copyright. The only things Disney produces in Basque are licensed printed storybooks. Just crap merchandising: Disney may produce decent movies (Pixar's are excellent, certainly) but those storybooks, they are worth nothing.

Other subtitles around: these for Ten Canoes, in some aboriginal Australian language. And coming soon, for Atanarjuat (a film in Inuktitut), and for The Road, the movie based in the novel by Cormac McCarthy, in which the director of photography is Javier Agirresarobe, a fellow from Eibar, my hometown.

Maybe this new domain for the subtitle site marks also the revival of this blog, The English Cemetery. We'll see.

Basque illegal food

Luistxo Fernandez 2009/05/03 10:08

Some months ago, I found a very interesting piece at BoingBoing, about this type of Sardinian cheese full of worms. It was particularly notable to me that it was described as illegal food. Is there illegal food? Yes, there is. Rhinoceros parts for witchcraft recipes should be illegal, in my opinion, but other things have been outlawed in the name of public health, regulations of agro products and markets, and that's just a pity, if not an injustice and a loss for human culture. 

Among food that can be labeled illegal nowadays is the dessert of my childhood. A marvelous natural meal that we used to have every spring, gatzatua. It's some sort of yoghourt common to several peoples in the Iberian peninsula. We Basques call it gatzatua or mamia. In Spanish it's cuajada and the term seems to have no English counterpart although, from what I see in the Wikipedia, it could enter into the Curd category.

The thing is that nowadays you cannot prepare natural gatzatua at home. And that's because this thing held in the boy’s hand is illegal. That's ligarra, rennet in English according to Wikipedia. And you cannot buy that anymore. When I was a child, butchers and farmers freely sold it, and we used to have a ligarra in the kitchen throughout the spring. Not anymore. Finally, after several years without seeing one, I got one on the black market. And we could make natural gatzatua. Here's the description of the illegal offence.

Ligarra is the desiccated stomach of a little lamb, sacrificed in its 2nd or 3rd week of life, when it only has been fed mother's milk. More precisely, ligarra/rennet is the content of that stomach, a mixture of fermenting enzymes and bacterial fauna. 

Ligarra has been made illegal because the treatment of certain viscera is now exclusive to official slaughterhouses, and from there, these parts are not given back to farmers or to butcher shops, but are processed by the food industry. Some companies, then, sell something they call Cuajada as if it were Yoghourt, but the product has nothing to do with the real thing. 

So, this time, since we got a real and illegal ligarra, we prepared gatzatua. This way:

Put some hot water in a cup. Cut open the rennet without fear, and take some bits to dissolve them in the cup. It doesn't naturally dissolve, you just press it a little bit.


Now you take another cup, and you pour the product through a strainer, so hard bits and hair (remember this is the real contents of a sacrificed lamb's stomach) don’t go through.


The second ingredient is sheep milk. This, also, cannot be bought nowadays directly from farmers or shepherds, but somehow it's easier to get it indirectly in the Basque Country. Besides, there is processed dairy sheep milk. Last week, we made gatzatua with milk of both types, illegal and legal. The one for the children's trial and these photos is bottled (of the Ultzama brand), thus legal.

So, heat the milk, putting a piece of cinnamon on it. If it's natural/illegal, boil it, then wait until it cools body temperature. For bottled sheep milk, just heat until that level, don't boil it.


When we have warm milk at the ideal temperature, put it in the dessert cups. For each cup, add a little spoon of liquid ligarra/rennet. Stir it just a little, then leave it alone.


Don't move the cups for two hours. Then it's done. The milk solidifies, you turn the cup vertically and it holds. That's gatzatua ready to be eaten.


It can be consumed immediately, but putting it in the fridge for a little bit is good, as cold it's ideal. The product will last for 3 days in the fridge nicely, as well. The way to eat it is by pouring sugar or honey over it, and just eat it with the spoon, but, remember, never stir it: this is not yoghourt. If the initial sweetness gets eaten up, put more sugar on and keep on eating.


There it is. Nice and sweet gatzatua.

Maybe the sight of a sacrificed lamb's stomach full of bacteria is shocking to you, but the final product is far from being anything close to those Sardinian cheese worms or illegal foods out there that tend to be shocking by nature, it seems. Gatzatua is a very gentle dairy product, a soft dessert for everybody, some kind of yoghourt that will remind you mildly of cheese, perhaps.  

Preparation is also just 10 minutes for a 10 year old boy, as you can see (plus the 2-hour wait). That's natural fast food, not a complicated gastronomical oddity. It's just the regulations that make it hard, having outlawed natural rennet and sheep milk. 

It's a shame that natural gatzatua is illegal.

Btw, my  pics for the process are CC-BY-SA.


Luistxo works in CodeSyntax, tweets as @Luistxo and tries to manage the automated newssite Niagarank. This Cemetery is part of a distributed multilingual blog (?!). These are the Basque and Spanish versions:

Ingelesen hilerria

El cementerio de los ingleses


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